Harum Scarum! Autopsy tools used on Elvis go up for sale

Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:44pm EDT
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By Daniel Lippman

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Autopsy tools used to embalm and prepare Elvis Presley's body for his funeral in 1977 and a toe tag used on the singer for identification purposes are set to go under the hammer at a Chicago auction house.

The instruments up for sale at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on August 12 include rubber gloves, forceps, lip brushes, a comb and eye liner, needle injectors, an arterial tube and aneurysm hooks, all of which the auction house say were used only once.

The collection, saved for years by a senior embalmer at the Memphis Funeral Home who wishes to stay anonymous, also includes a toe tag marked "John Doe" which was used as a replacement after the original was stolen by a fan during chaos at the hospital.

"The mortician, who prepared the body, retained this tag and the instruments, along with the preparation room case report, the case sheet, dry cleaning tags, the hanger to the singer's suit and tie and the coffin shipping invoice, which are marked "Elvis Presley,"" said Mary Williams, a spokeswoman for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

The items will be sold in two lots, and the auction house estimated the lots will sell at between $6,000-8,000 and $4,000-6,000, respectively.

Williams admitted the auction may be controversial as some people "are going to be disappointed" by the sale of these items but Elvis memorabilia was always in strong demand with a lock of his hair selling for $18,300 at an auction last year.

"It's really about owning a piece of the celebrity themselves ... and how much closer can you get than the actual embalming instruments," Williams told Reuters.

Elvis died from heart problems after taking a cocktail of prescription drugs on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42 but he continues to be one of the top earning dead celebrities, bringing in $55 million in 2009 according to Forbes.com.

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)